Raikkonen, Ecclestone and the other Bahrain Grand Prix talking points

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Can Kimi Raikkonen get his season back on track? And will Bernie Ecclestone really resurface at this weekends Bahrain Grand Prix?

Here are the top talking points for the upcoming race.

Pressure building on Raikkonen

Ferrari’s pleasure in seeing Sebastian Vettel take the fight to Lewis Hamilton has been tempered by their underperforming second driver. Once Vettel passed him on Sunday he put over 40 seconds on Raikkonen in 36 laps.

While Valtteri Bottas finished further behind his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, much of his time was lost due to a single, admittedly embarrassing error, plus two slow pit stops. His pace compared much more favourably to Hamilton’s than Raikkonen’s did to his team mate, as the graph below shows:

At first Ferrari left Raikkonen on the track in the hope he would be able to maintain position over the Red Bulls by not pitting again. They eventually scrapped the plan and brought him in for fresh rubber so he could salvage fifth place ahead of Bottas. This serves to prove there is no strategic solution for a car being off the pace, as Raikkonen demonstrated again by being slower on his super-softs than Vettel was on his softs.

Difficulty getting the front tyres to work in the cold conditions last weekend was a significant cause of Raikkonen’s struggles. That shouldn’t be an issue in the heat of Bahrain, a track where he has often performed well. With an open driver market looming for 2018, Raikkonen needs to make his contract renewal a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Time for Haas to shine?

In Australia Romain Grosjean showed Haas are quick enough to run inside the top ten this year. Ferrari’s improved 2017 power unit is believed to be a major component in their improved pace.

However he endured a poor weekend in China while team mate Kevin Magnussen claimed their first points of the year with eighth. Can they do better at a track which should play to their key strength?

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Will Wehrlein return?

This question is likely to be answered very soon. Sauber announced Antonio Giovinazzi would return for them in China on the Monday before the race. It’s already Tuesday and, so far, there has been no word on who Marcus Ericsson’s team mate will be.

Two crashes in as many days cast an unfortunate shadow over Giovinazzi following his respectable start in Australia. Sauber may be holding out hope Wehrlein’s fitness has improved enough for him to finally driver is first race for them. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said he expects to see Wehrlein back in the car on Friday.

Ecclestone’s return?

Ecclestone regularly attends the Bahrain Grand Prix
Several reports indicate former Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone will make his return to the paddock this weekend. He’s also been tipped as a potential buyer of the Interlagos circuit, home of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The stage appears to be set for Ecclestone to make his first significant move since losing control of the sport he ran for decades.

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2017 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Raikkonen, Ecclestone and the other Bahrain Grand Prix talking points”

  1. I wouldn’t claim that Raikkonen is up in the same tier as Hamiltons, Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo and Verstappen. I’d probably even be putting him behind Bottas, Hulkenberg and Grosjean. But he slots nicely into that mid-tier while Ferrari continues to scout for some young talent.

    I think he deserves some slack for China as well, Ferrari rolled the strategy dice with both drivers, Vettel managed to rescue them from their mistake with him with some pretty epic driving, But the strategy they were pushing Raikkonen on didn’t give him chance to fight. He was being asked to make his tyres last until the end of the race, he couldn’t afford to be sticking in purple times or fighting for position. And for about 10 laps he was practically crying for mercy that the tyres weren’t coping with what was being asked, they took too long to react to his feedback and get his race back on track.

    It wasn’t an inspired performance by him, but I’m sticking the blame on the pit wall for this one.

    1. @philipgb Yeh maybe the strategy is to blame for a part of the bad result but it doesnt change the fact that Kimi aint performing at all and hasnt been for a long time.

      Regarding Wherlain we will hear about it soon as its most likely decided already if hes gonna drive or not. Sauber aint gonna let him wait and destroy the free practice again.

    2. He just isn’t top teir. Simple as that, Vettel was able to pass through to the top, and Kimi wasn’t. There was nothing wrong with his strategy in first part of the race.

      Not much point pressuring him to be much faster.

      When true great drivers have everything lined up, and put in some Hammer time Kimi is just way off. In quali and in the race.

      Probably Ferrari should sign someone who coule be within 2 tenths of Vettel and have good overtaking ability. Perez, Seinz… Better yet snatch Verstappen or Riciardo. Bottas seems on Kimi level.

      Ferrari will be in good position to attract good drivers for 2018.

      1. I’m amazed how short peoples’ memories are. Kimi outqualified Vettel something like 6 times in a row last season and matched him for pace throughout the year, and now people are saying that he’s not a top class driver after two poor races. True, he’s probably not the Kimi of 2003-2007, but then again few are.

        I think Kimi’s problem has simply been a lack of track time to rectify the initial blind alley he went down on setup in Australia. Apparently, he was going to try another setup but after the Friday washout he thought it too risky to attempt to use in a single one-hour FP3 session on Saturday. He therefore stuck with something close to that he used in Australia for the entire weekend. It’s been magnified by the nature of the Shanghai circuit, which is clearly front limited, so he’s been killing the front tyres, and meant he couldn’t get close to Ricciardo when it mattered (i.e. after the two long first corners, going into turn four). Don’t forget that he outqualified Vettel there last year and would likely have beaten him in the race if he hadn’t taken him out. He’s simply been very unlucky that that initial bad setup choice has been compounded to such an extent.

        People should have a proper snipe if he doesn’t get it right in Bahrain or Spain.

    3. I thought Kimi had a decent showing on Sunday. Race pace decent, with possibly an issue with his car? he complained about torque and power at turn 12 on separate occasions. Would be interesting to see if there were more radio comms on the matter – but of course we don’t get that privilege.
      Comparing slow pace to Vettel when his tyres were shot, is a bit unfair; plus i doubt he had much motivation to do much after the tyre change, with little hope of making any places.

      That said, relative performance to Seb was lacking.

      1. I read somewhere that theat turn 12 issue was bc. he forgot to change his engine mapping when he pitted from inters to softs @tom

        1. cheers for this.
          if he did indeed forget, then decent should be changed to fair.

      2. He complained while setting the fastest lap. Not very convincing.
        ( at least the radio message was aired during his fastest lap)

    4. The bit i was disappointed in was during SC; how he fell so far behind DR. I sense the race could have been more exciting up top had he, Max and Seb challenged at that point, instead of gifting DR a free pit stop.
      I was surprised there wasn’t any commentary on this.

    5. The really sad thing is that, prior to his stepping out of F1 for a few years
      Kimi was virtually uncatchable in a good all-round car. I don’t think he
      really has any affection for the current Ferrari car, the team organisation,
      or F1’s current rules. The fire seems to have gone out. Such a pity.

    6. Actually it was Mercedes who failed to see that Vettel became a great threat by leaving Ham out. They got lucky, this time, but in my opinion that’s two races in a row where they had sub-optimal strategy calls.
      I’ll explain: The crossover point for going from Inters to Slicks was very close (Vet was 2 seconds faster in the last sector of his out-lap, and on par in the 2nd sector) and pitting under Virt SC gained him 8s. This meant that Lewis would have been behind Seb when he pitted. Mercedes got twice lucky: The safety car came soon enough AND drove the whole pack through the pitlane (100 km/h-ish slower than on the track, even after the SC)

  2. there is no strategic solution for a car being off the pace

    I love this aphorism and wish to add it to my repertoire. Is it public domain?

    1. I would suggest to change the phrase up a bit, after all it was the driver not the car that was off the pace i.e. There is no strategic solution for a driver being off the pace.

      1. I like it the way it is, as it encompasses both. The reason why a car is off the pace is a different subject altogether, and this phrase manages to express a deeper truth in simple words.

  3. I don’t know why Raikkonen’s suddenly getting it in the neck from the team now, this is the level he’s been at for a few seasons with Ferrari. Maybe there’s a sudden focus now they’ve realised maybe they have half a shot at the WCC and Kimi phoning it in might cost them that.

    1. Not so much to lose in the past when the car was not great? Now they have a very competitive car poor performances are exposed more and cost the team more?

    2. Wasn’t it last year that they had to take Kimi to woodshed before he got inspired?

  4. Ever since he rejoined Formula One in 2012, Räikkönen has finished the Bahrain GP in second position in 4 races. The only year he failed to was in 2014. In fact, since 2004, he’s only missed the podium 3 times (2004 where he started last and retired, 2009 and 2014 where the car wasn’t competitive enough).

    If there’s a GP where Räikkönen should be expected to be competitive, that’s Bahrain.

    1. It’s a parting shot, Ferrari is preparing Kimi’s fan mentally to accept end of Kimi’s drive for Ferrari/carrier in F1?

  5. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
    12th April 2017, 7:42

    Maybe 2017 would be Kimi’s last F1 season. He’s been here for a very long time now.

    1. Or maybe he’ll move to McLaren since it looks increasingly likely that Alonso will look for a new home (Mercedes?)

  6. Evil Homer (@)
    12th April 2017, 14:20

    Over the past few years Kimi’s form has been below par except for the last 1/3rd of last year when he looked really good.

    I think it was mid/late 14 when Hulkenburg almost signed for 15 with Ferrari and i think that may have been a better option.

    But you can’t blame Kimi but instead management! When a team pays you so much money and keeps you going you take it dont you!?

    Again this makes me a bit sad as Ferrari had a succession plan that went astray when Jules crashed they didnt know their next move.

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